Our Tlingit Art: From Banned Traditions to Cultural Treasures

Promote something you love, rather than bash something you hate. I’ve been thinking about this quote as it relates to my artwork. At first, the word “promote” sounded distasteful. Whenever someone promotes something, we get suspicious. We want to know the hidden agenda.

After thinking about it some more, I’m more comfortable with some of its synonyms: to encourage, foster, nurture, stimulate…
Anther definition has to do with elevating something.

With these ideas in mind, I come back to one of my reasons for creating this website. I foster an understanding and appreciation for our tribal arts.

There are a couple ways to look at our Tlingit art. A person might appreciate the art in the context of of its traditional role. It has always been an artform to represent our clan crests. Our clan crests are about identity and place. It is about ethnicity.

A person might also appreciate the art on the wider stage. Our art is taking its place in galleries and among art collectors. Understanding of the principles of formline helps appreciate quality art. Even though art on this level is less confined to traditional use, it still has its roots in ethnicity. But the art market and the wider audience extends our art form beyond our traditional region.

I’ve mentioned our tribal art in the context of our culture, past and present. Rooted in tradion. We survived an era in which foreign instruments discourged or banned our art and traditions. We treasure our art. I treasure our ever-evolving art.

Here and there, I will link to other sites that might help you understand formline art a little better. My intent is to stir up some curiousity, keep me sketching and blogging, and inspire other artists.

Here are three more sketches from my Tlingit Formline Daily Sketchbook:

The sketch below “Concocting Wealth” has suggestions of the tinaĆ” – a symbol of wealth and status.

Experimental Tlingit Formline Robert Davis Hoffmann

Concocting Wealth

The sketch below, “Curves and Angles” was started with a bentwood box design in mind.

Experimental Tlingit formline art Robert Davis Hoffmann

Curves and Angles

I’m caught up with my uploaded images, so I’m adding one I already showed. I’ll get the rest of my sketchbook uploaded later today. Have a great day~!

Experimental Tlingit formline art Robert Davis Hoffmann


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